Kissing spine

Veterinary advice should be sought before applying any treatment or vaccine.

Kissing Spine

Overriding Dorsal Spinous Processes (ORDSP)

Overriding spinous processes, also known as kissing spine, is a
major cause of back pain in horses and often associated with poor performance and/or alterations in gait. It occurs where two or more of the vertebrae in the horse’s back touch or overlap. When these vertebrae rub against one another, they cause low grade inflammatory changes in the edges of the bone where they meet. Kissing spines is thought to be related to a horse's conformation and development. It more commonly affects Thoroughbreds, although any horse breed can develop it.

Clinical signs of Kissing Spine


Clinical signs of kissing spine in horses are mainly in relation to behavioral issues---while handling on the ground, riding, or discipline-specific. The most common clinical signs demonstrated by horses with kissing spine include:
  • Hypersensitivity to brushing
  • When tacking up (placement of the saddle and/or tightening the girth)
  • Back is sore to the touch
  • Hind limb dragging during work
  • Bucking
  • Head tossing
  • Excessive shying in
  • Horses are hard to get on the bit
  • Kicking out
  • Bolting
  • Rearing up
  • Behind the leg
  • Have difficulty transitioning gaits
  • Change in head carriage
  • Have difficulty cantering
  • Hollow while riding
  • Slow to warm-up or relax
  • Stiffer in one direction
  • Refusing jumps
  • Chipping fences
  • Rushing to and from fences
  • If barrel racing, will run past the barrels to avoid turning


How Kissing Spine is Diagnosed


Your veterinarian may initially conduct a routine lameness examination and palpate the horse's back (to see if they can get a reaction from the horse, indicating that it's sore). Thermography may also be a useful aid in it's diagnosis. Kissing spine is confirmed through radiographs (x-rays) taken of the horse's back from the withers through the lumbar vertebrae.

Symptoms

Hollow back
67%
Back sore to touch
61%
Hard to get on the bit
61%
Behind the leg
61%
Slow to warm up
61%
Stiffness in one direction
56%
Trouble with gait transitions
49%
Change in head carriage
43%
Girthy
43%
Brushing hypersensitivity
40%
Refuses or chips jumping fences
39%
Intermittent hind toe dragging
39%
Bucking
33%
Trouble in canter
31%
Rearing
25%
Head tossing
18%
Running past barrels
18%
Kicking out
17%
Excessive shying
10%
Rushing fences
6%

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Lameness exam
  • Palpation of back
  • Radiography
  • Thermography

Treatment

TherapiesDetails
ExerciseOne of the more important aspects of treatment. Exercise had to achieve the goal of the horse moving freely forward in a relaxed frame (“long and low”).
Methylprednisolone acetate injections
MesotherapyA technique of intradermal injection that is suppose to work through type I and II nerve fibers that can block pain transmission within the spinal cord
SurgeryInterspinous ligament desmotomy (ISLD) using Mayo scissors
Cold therapy
Anti-inflammatories
Shockwave therapy
Saddle refitting

Prevention

Scientific Research

General Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Poor conformation

Commonly Affected Breeds

Thoroughbred icon